Olympics Summer

Perdita shuts down Olympic dream

Canadian hurdler Perdita Felicien, who hasn't raced since fracturing a foot in February, announced Tuesday she's giving up her bid to qualify for next month's Beijing Games.

27-year-old Canadian hurdles star decides to look beyond Beijing Games

Perdita Felicien announced Tuesday she has given up her ambition of competing at the Beijing Olympics.

The decision was taken late last week and came after consulting family, friends and the doctors who have been treating her in the aftermath of a stress fracture in her ankle.

"The decision was based on looking at the bigger picture, looking at the long term," she said. "I don't have time on my side for Beijing so I came to the conclusion I needed to shut it down and stop having a performance-based focus and start thinking about my fitness and my health."

The 2003 IAAF World 100m hurdles champion bounced back from the disappointment of falling during the 2004 Olympic final to win a silver medal in her specialty at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka. But the injury she suffered during the indoor season hampered her buildup to the summer Olympics.

Not able to hurdle

She has not been able to hurdle since and was told by doctors to stay off it.

"The risk isn't to my foot, it's more to avoid risks to other parts of my body." she said. "At this point it's more of a precaution to allow me to be  competitive in the coming years."

The 27-year-old Felicien has already targeted next summer's IAAF World Championships in Berlin and admits she has drawn encouragement from double Olympic 100m champion Gail Devers, a three-time world 100m hurdles champion who competed at the highest level into her late 30s.

"Gail called me," Felicien revealed. "I love the woman she is because you don't get to see that when you line up against her.  You don't get to see who she is and how she is really in tune with the hurdling world. She was one of the first people last summer after I had been off the circuit and won the silver medal in Osaka to call my manager and relay a message to me. So when I think of her she is definitely an inspiration to me."

Canadians will remember the day in Athens when the heavily favoured Felicien fell heavily at the first hurdle in an incident she still can't explain. The following year she failed to make the final in the 2005 IAAF World Championships. Winning the silver medal in Osaka proved her incredible fortitude and the Olympic dream began all over again. 

Focus on future

"I have always said this is not a comeback story, it's not a shot at redemption. It makes a nice story but that's not how I viewed it," she declared.  "Nobody would be more satisfied to be in Beijing and win gold. But I have to focus on the future. Of course the Olympics are the biggest stage but they are not the only stage.

"Of course, I am disappointed. It's not an easy decision to come to but it's a decision that will allow me to have so many more races ahead of me if I look at the bigger picture down the line."

"The women who are competing in Beijing, I am going to have to see them again and face them again. They are not wasting their time thinking about me and I am really not wasting my time thinking about them. I am thinking about what I need to do to be a contender and to be a force again in my sport."

Felicien has been staying with her mother in Pickering, Ont., whom she credits for being supportive through the hard times while undergoing rehabilitation with Dr. Tony Galea of the Institute of Sports Medicine in Toronto. All the while she has methodically avoided interviews and essentially kept the severity of her injury a secret. This fueled speculation.

Filtering distractions

"I decided to make a call that was in my best interests," she explained. "To deal with what I was dealing with I was determined to get back and focus on the prize. Period. Nothing else mattered to me. My motivation for doing that was filtering out the distractions, filtering out the noise, filtering all the things that didn't matter. 

"All that mattered was getting to China and being as prepared as I could for China and anything else that came along was in my way. Am I always going to do that? No. I like to be as open and honest with people as I can.  But there is a time and season for everything."

She says she will likely watch the Olympic hurdles on television and will be supporting both Priscilla Lopes-Schliep and Angela Whyte, who finished first and second in the recent Canadian Olympic trials.  "I will have a barbecue and wear a Priscilla and Angela t-shirt," she joked.